Salem Witchcraft Trials 1692 A look into what caused this episode of our history and the effects.
Primary Causes of Salem Witchcraft Trials The origins of the Salem Witchcraft Trials can be studied from various perspectives, including historical facts, religious beliefs, and human nature. A combination of viewpoints can offer possible explanations for the hysteria and human suffering that resulted. Examination of the social and religious context of 1692 Salem indicates an environment ripe for suspicion and panic.
Primary Causes to Consider <ul><li>300 year history of witchcraft trials in Europe. </li></ul><ul><li>Between 40,000 and 50,000 people executed for suspected witchcraft. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” direct quote from The Bible, book of Exodus. </li></ul><ul><li>Malleus Maleficarum: published in 1486 defined witchcraft and detailed procedures for identifying witches. </li></ul><ul><li>This was the “how-to guidebook” for detecting and torturing witches. </li></ul>
Highlights from the Malleus Maleficarum <ul><li>Women were more likely to be witches than men due to their natural lustfulness and curiosity. Therefore, women more likely to be evil & sign the devil’s book. </li></ul><ul><li>Details for inspecting a woman’s body for the “Devil’s Mark”. In order to view every inch of skin, shaving was necessary. </li></ul><ul><li>Detailed instructions for convicting and torturing suspected witches. </li></ul>
Puritan Factors in Salem which fueled the witch hunt. <ul><li>Intense Puritan religion encouraged uncertainty of individual goodness or badness. Puritans believed a person was predestined to heaven or hell. However, no one knew where they were predestined to go. This caused Puritans to be overly suspicious and worried. </li></ul><ul><li>Salem Village vs. Salem Town </li></ul><ul><li>Friction between farmers of the village and wealthier merchants of the town </li></ul><ul><li>Not everyone in Salem was a Puritan and some colonist had different reasons for colonizing. People who did not attend Puritan Church were more suspect of witchcraft. </li></ul><ul><li>Central Themes of Puritan life: A constant search for evil and the belief in Satan. </li></ul><ul><li>Examples of marginalized Salem women targeted for being witches: </li></ul><ul><li>Tituba, a Caribbean slave </li></ul><ul><li>Sarah Good, village beggar </li></ul><ul><li>Sarah Osborn, married her indentured servant </li></ul>
The Accusers. Sweet Puritan Children? or Cruel, Dramatic Girls? <ul><li>Several theories offer explanations of the girls’ behavior. </li></ul><ul><li>The girls enjoyed the drama and attention of their accusations. This encouraged them to name more suspected witches. </li></ul><ul><li>Medical reasons: possible aliments include asthma, epilepsy, or mental delusions. </li></ul><ul><li>Mean girls out of control. Teenage hysterics left unchecked by Puritan parents who should have known better, but were blinded by their own fears and insecurities. </li></ul>
Summary Factors that could have contributed to the Salem Witchcraft Trials <ul><li>History of witchcraft hysteria in Europe </li></ul><ul><li>Puritan Religious beliefs </li></ul><ul><li>Friction between Salem Village and Salem Town. Farmers vs. Merchants </li></ul><ul><li>Women’s roles in male dominated colonial society </li></ul><ul><li>Children’s questionable testimony </li></ul>
Primary Effects of Salem Witchcraft Trials <ul><li>Ideas about justice started to change after the trial </li></ul><ul><li>Spectral evidence was no longer accepted in court </li></ul><ul><li>Leaders started to change their views on prosecuting witches. </li></ul><ul><li>Increase Mather once supported witchcraft prosecutions. After the hysteria of the Salem trials, Mather said, “It were better that ten suspected witches should escape, than one innocent person should be condemned.” </li></ul><ul><li>American idea that someone is innocent until proven guilty emerged. </li></ul>
Conclusion: What have we learned form the Salem Witchcraft Trials? The Salem Witchcraft trials exposed the dangers of unchecked suspicion, spectral evidence, and mass hysteria. Yet, human suspicion of one another continues. In his book The Salem Witchcraft Trials , author Peter Hoffer describes this human fear as “part of the frailty of human nature.” Man is still fearful of others who are unlike him. Sadly, prejudice and discrimination are still alive and well. Americans are still fearful of the dark forests on the edge of town. However, those forests are no longer inhabited by native Indian tribes or the witches caldron. Today, our dark forests of fear house our racial and religious fears. Immigrants, alternative lifestyles, people with an unusual skin tone; all those different people reside in the dark forest. Hopefully the light of tolerance and respect will one day illuminate our dark forests. When will we realize that as humans, we are more the same than we are different. When we are happy, we smile. When we are sad, we cry. When we are cut, we bleed. A focus on our similarities might lead to a brighter edge of the forest.
Works Cited Google Images . Web. 26 Dec 2009. Hoffer, Peter Charles. The Salem Witchcraft Trials . Lawrence, KA: University Press of Kansas, 1997. Print. Keene, Jennifer, Saul Cornell, and Edward O'Donnell. Visions of America. 1st ed. volume 1. Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2009. Print. Salem Witch Trials . The History Channel: 1998, DVD. .